Being an ESL teacher abroad is hard work. Aside from the regular challenges of teaching, you’re often navigating new cultures, languages, and social norms. But after surviving a few school years, you can sit back and appreciate the benefits of your persistence.
Here are 8 superpowers only teachers abroad have.
1. The ability to speak every version of English.
English is not simply English, of course. In England alone, there are roughly 30 different dialects to decipher. Now add in all the accents in other English-speaking countries, plus the accents of non-native speakers, and you have a lot to master. But after years of listening to people from numerous cultures, your keen ears can defy any accent or dialect imaginable. Even if every other word is mispronounced, you still understand.
2. The ability to entertain at a moment’s notice.
It’s not a requirement, of course, but a lot of teachers abroad tend to have bigger personalities. Maybe you were the life of the party or the class clown back at home. This will prove helpful, as you are constantly entertaining. Even if you’ve had a bad day yourself, you walk into the classroom all smiles and high energy. It’s exhausting, yet exhilarating. And soon enough, the tricks up your sleeve will be endless.
3. The ability to solve any problem.
After surviving the grueling, bureaucratic processes of applying for different visas, which may or may not include doctor’s visits, medical certificates, address registration, and background checks, all in one or more foreign languages, you develop a totally new reaction to the phrase “There’s a problem”. Problem? Please; you laugh in the face of problems! There is no problem you cannot solve.
4. The ability to stomach any type of cuisine.
Raw fish noodles? Sounds good! Goose liver? Load me up! Cow intestines? I’ll have seconds! Pig ear? Why not?! In a foreign culture, unless you have serious dietary restrictions, it’s usually considered rude to refuse a dish. So you embrace it, even if you’re cringing on the inside. Therefore, your palate can pretty much handle anything you throw at it.
5. The ability to decipher the mystery of greetings.
In Spain, upon meeting someone, you give two kisses: one on each cheek starting with the right. Now reverse that in Hungary and start with the left. But don’t actually kiss, just graze cheeks and make a quiet smooching sound. But if you’re in France, feel free to use those lips and keep going three or four times. Don’t get too touchy-feely in Germany, though. Simply shake hands. But, be a bit more personable in the United States, maybe adding a hug. If you’re in Japan, however, don’t touch at all, just bow. See how this could get complicated? But as a teacher abroad, you don’t even think about it anymore, you just somehow know what to do.
6. The ability to switch personalities.
You know exactly what your class needs, whether it’s humor or boundaries. But the moment anyone tries to take advantage, you can quickly switch from fun to strict. One moment you’re smiling and laughing, the next you’re demanding silence. And before you know it, you’re back to clapping your hands and singing. But none of this back-and-forth impacts your true personality, you are simply a master of disguise.
7. The ability to catalog your mind.
When you teach 30 classes a week across 20 different age groups, 10 different subjects, and 8 different co-teachers, and somehow are supposed to learn more than 300 names, you quickly learn the skill of organization. Your schedule and lesson plans run through your brain like a mental Rolodex, allowing you to miraculously transition from class to class.
8. The ability to practice an eerie degree of patience.
It goes beyond the “I can wait” mentality. While you witness a herd of preteens performing ridiculous antics just to get the attention of others, somehow your patience protectively envelopes you, calms your mind, and you wait out the storm. No evidence of emotion flickers across your face. You are made of silent, patient stone and the students eventually stop trying to push your nonexistent limits.
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